- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween

Washington is ground zero for things that go bump in the night.

As a reporter for the old Washington Star observed in 1891, “Washington is the greatest town for ghosts in this country.”

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Across the Potomac River, Old Town Alexandria is abuzz of late about sightings of a child spirit thought to be that of Robert E. Lee, who grew up at 607 Oronoco St.

Ghost hunter Rose Edmonds surmises that because of the bloodshed the Confederate general witnessed in the divisive Civil War, “Lee’s ghost has regressed back to his less-complicated childhood years.”

“A 4-year-old Lee has been seen playing in the yard of his childhood home in Alexandria,” she reports. “The boy is sometimes accompanied by a phantom black dog and two ghostly girls who may be his sisters.”

This columnist happens to be a longtime friend of Tom Horan, photo editor of the Associated Press in Washington. Mr. Horan used to be the overnight caretaker of Lee’s boyhood home, his bedroom directly above the kitchen.

I phoned Mr. Horan to relay word about recent sightings of the young spirit and his pet.

“The dog is Black Jack. It was Lee’s dog,” the photo editor said without hesitating.

So you’ve seen it?

“I can tell you one thing that is legitimate, which took place when city archaeologists digging in the [fenced] yard left two-foot-square quadrants that got covered by an overnight snowfall,” he said. “I will never forget going out one morning and seeing dog prints in the middle of the dig.”

And that’s scary?

“There were no dog tracks leading up to the site,” he said. “In other words, they just appeared right there in the middle of the dig, honest to God.”

Did you ever see little Lee?

“I never saw a little boy, but honestly, I woke up one night, and there was a house servant standing over me. I’m not making this up,” Mr. Horan said. “I was dripping in cold sweat.”

If President Bush feels a chill in the White House air this week, it’s probably the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.

Every time there’s a national calamity, political or otherwise, Lincoln’s spirit nervously floats about the executive mansion. Surely, with all the partisan mudslinging leading up to next week’s midterm election, the Republican Lincoln is on edge.

Hans Holzer, author of more than 100 books on the paranormal, writes in “In Quest of Ghosts” that Mary Evan, servant to first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, didn’t believe in ghosts until she saw Lincoln’s disembodied spirit sitting on the edge of a bed pulling on his boots.

Other White House servants have seen the bearded Lincoln resting quietly in his bed, or gazing through the oval window above the main entrance to the White House. And once, the late Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, an overnight guest in the White House, heard someone knock at her door.

“She got up, opened it, and saw the ghost of President Lincoln standing there looking at her. She fainted, and by the time she had come to, he was gone,” Mr. Holzer writes.

President Ford’s daughter, Susan, was in the Lincoln Bedroom when she encountered Honest Abe; and President Reagan’s daughter, Maureen, swears she saw Lincoln’s translucent form standing next to the bedroom fireplace in 1987.

Given this columnist’s surname, I’ve long been a fan of Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner’s character Isaac McCaslin. In “The Old People,” which appeared in the 1942 Faulkner collection “Go Down, Moses,” McCaslin concedes ghosts are among us:

“Besides, what would it [a ghost] want, itself, knocking around out there [in the planetary heavens], when it never had enough time about the earth as it was, when there is plenty of room about the earth, plenty of places still unchanged from what they were when the blood used and pleasured in them while it was still blood?”

Like McCaslin, one recent Fox News Channel poll shows that a majority of Americans believe in spirits in one form or another: 79 percent believe in angels,34 percent in ghosts, 24 percent in witches, and 4 percent worried about vampires.

So be careful out there tonight when trick or treating.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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